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Morneau Homers, but Sox Slip Past Twins

Fort Myers, Fla. — The next time Justin Morneau steps into the batter’s box he’ll be representing Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

Morneau homered in his final game with Minnesota before leaving for the WBC, but the Twins lost to the Boston Red Sox 2-1 yesterday.

“A good way to go,” Morneau said.

The 2006 AL MVP led off the fourth inning with a drive that landed in a pond behind the right-field wall at Hammond Stadium. After the game he was scheduled to fly out of Fort Myers to join his Canadian teammates in Arizona.

Although the first week of March is typically a time for veterans such as Morneau to ease into form, he knows things will be different in the WBC.

“I know I have to be ready,” Morneau said.

He can tell expectations for early March are different just by looking at his phone.

“I’ve been getting a lot of text messages from people at home,” said Morneau, a native of British Columbia, where he also played youth hockey as well as baseball.

That hockey background is something he’ll probably have in common with many of his teammates on Team Canada.

“I’m sure we’ll talk more hockey than baseball,” Morneau said.

Juan Carlos Linares went deep for Boston off starter Kyle Gibson, and the Red Sox took a 2-1 lead in the fifth when Jonathan Diaz scored on Ryan Sweeney’s single.

Linares has yet to play in the major leagues.

“Four-seamer away,” Gibson said. “He squared it up pretty good.”

Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz threw 40 pitches in 11∕ 3 innings. He walked two and went to three balls on four of his seven batters. Buchholz said he was “amped up” for his first Grapefruit League game this spring.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Twins. Boston has won three consecutive games.

Attendance was 6,591 on a windy, 57-degree day.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Morneau is further ahead in spring training than he has been in years. In recent springs, Morneau was rehabbing from concussions. This offseason he was able to train as hard as he once did.

“It makes a difference,” Gardenhire said.

Yes, indeed. Morneau is hitting .471 this spring.

Yesterday’s game was also the final one before the WBC for two Twins on the United States team: catcher Joe Mauer and pitcher Glen Perkins.

Mauer, who said he was scheduled to fly out Sunday morning, was 1 for 3 and caught the first five innings. This will be Mauer’s first WBC. He is looking forward to wearing the Team USA uniform on a big stage.

“That’s it right there — representing your country,” Mauer said. “You don’t get many opportunities to do that.”

Mauer said he’s had opportunities to participate in the previous two WBCs but had to decline because of injuries. As he went through offseason workouts he was aware of the WBC and the earlier-than-normal start of spring training.

“It was kind of in the back of my mind,” Mauer said. “I saw that we had a couple of weeks’ worth of games before we started so I kind of used that, catching a little more innings than I normally have.”

He was happy Morneau homered against the Red Sox but hopes he doesn’t duplicate that against the U.S. team.

“I’m glad he got that out of the way,” Mauer said.

Perkins’ final outing before the WBC was strong. He pitched a hitless inning and struck out two.

“It’s humbling more than anything,” Perkins said of being on the U.S. team.

He acknowledged he’s not as well-known as many of his WBC teammates, like Mauer.

“I’m looking to ride the coattails,” Perkins said.

This will be his first WBC and he’s not sure if it’s a big deal.

“I don’t know,” Perkins said. “I guess I’ll find out.”

He doesn’t even know if the members of the winning team get medals or rings of trophies.

“I’m going to bring back some T-shirts, I know that,” he said.

Notes: It was the first of eight games the teams will play against each other this spring in a 28-day span. ... The game-time temperature was 22 degrees below the average high for March 2 in Fort Myers.